Yet another Jacksonville City Council committee opted for silence when asked to let the people speak about historical monuments.
A referendum measure (2022-265) sponsored by second-term Republican Al Ferraro, a current mayoral candidate, failed by a 1-5 vote in the Rules Committee Tuesday.
This was the second committee to reject the proposal for a referendum, a seeming bad sign ahead of a full City Council vote slated for Tuesday despite two negative committee references.
“This was not an interest in the community,” Ferraro, who supports keeping confederate monuments in place, said about monument removal.
Ferraro said the bill was intended to “allow the voters to talk,” but “it’s been chopped up to be racially motivated, and that’s not what it was.”
“This is just something that’s going to keep coming back and back and back,” he added. “It’s turned into name calling about what I’m trying to do with this bill.”
Resistance came from both sides of the aisle.
Republican Nick Howland said the language imperiled all monuments, urging “contextualizing our monuments.”
Chair Brenda Priestly Jackson offered a sharp rebuke of the bill and confederate monuments in her comments, noting the standing monument to the women of the South in Springfield Park was built in 1915, and that neither she nor her neighbors back those monuments.
The referendum “City Removal of Historic Monuments and Markers On City-Owned Property” would pose the question: “Shall the City of Jacksonville remove historic monuments and markers, defined as fixed assets that are identifiable because of particular historic, national, local or symbolic significance, on City-owned property?”
However, unless these two committees’ will can be subverted by the full Council Tuesday, voters won’t get to weigh in on the subject.
What could happen instead: more community discussions. Aaron Bowman is advancing a proposal to have outside help come in from the University of Virginia to get community input on the statuary’s future.
The major sticking point: The Women of the Southland in Springfield Park.
Legislation filed last year to remove the structure failed. Mayor Lenny Curry sought $1.3 million to move the Tribute to the Women of the Confederacy from Springfield Park, but all three Council committees of reference rejected that appropriation, and the bill was ultimately withdrawn.
A sticking point was the price tag itself: the $1.3 million needed for a careful move, hoping to preserve the piece’s artistic value.